In the recent years of navigating my parenting relationship with my less-than-co-parenting ex, I coined a phrase: Weaponizing Indifference. While that term comes with a bit of anger and resentment, the concept, of learning to let go with intention, is a good one. We don’t have to weaponize our indifference, but we may need to learn some skills in the art of indifference.
The Art of Indifference After Divorce
There are several parts to my indifference program.
- Make your life and health a priority
- Draw strong boundaries between you and your ex-partner
- Find the joy of ignoring drama and unnecessary escalations
Finding and Supporting Yourself After Divorce
There was so much pain involved in my divorce, that I struggled for months after leaving the house. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to look for a new job. (But, I was going to need a lot more money to pay child support AND find a place for me to live.) And the biggest sadness, I was spending most of my days and evenings alone. While my ex-wife enjoyed 70% of my kids’ time, I was a weekend dad. And this alone time required me to figure out a lot about myself. What did I want to do with my alone time? What kind of things could I do to begin pulling myself up from the depths of a divorce depression? How was I going to survive? Was I ever going to be happy again?
It took me a while, but eventually, I got tired of napping and blogging and reading Facebook. I polished up my resume and started applying for new jobs. I joined an 8-week divorce recovery group. And I started taking Aikido classes three times a week. And even before these activities had a chance to raise my mood, just the act of starting them had a tonic effect on my days. I started getting up early (as is my normal habit) and writing and going for a walk before breakfast.
By starting positive actions in your life, you are giving your body and soul a message: “I’m going to rise above this. I’m going to recover. I’m going to find my happiness again, in spite of the divorce!”
A Healthy and Hearty Boundary with Your Ex-partner
It is very hard letting go of someone you love. If you have kids, the effort is complicated, because you cannot simply remove them from your life. You are now required to communicate and cooperate with them several times a week, sometimes several times a day. In my case, this was someone who asked for the divorce for selfish reasons and then proceeded to violate our cooperative divorce agreement by not considering any form of 50/50 parenting. She got what she wanted, and her actions hurt all of us. And still, I had to be friendly, cordial, and helpful every time she asked for something. And of course, a lot of co-parenting is schedules and logistics and dealing with who can stay home with a sick kid.
And then there are the random requests. “Can I have the kids this coming weekend, my dad will be in town?” And, “There’s a girls night out next week, can you keep them on Friday as well?”
On these types of requests, I was often conflicted. Why should I give up my weekend? When would I get the weekend back? And why should I facilitate her “girls night out” for any reason? Again, these “flexible” requests are harder to be charitable. And in my relationship post-divorce, my ex-wife loved to throw “can I have them…” ideas out almost weekly. At first, I was accommodating. But as the pattern got reinforced her requests got bolder and more intrusive. It wasn’t easy, but I began to say no. Often, this would trigger a text war. And in the early days, I would text back with the same vitriol I was being given. But that didn’t help anything.
Here’s what a healthy co-parenting boundary looks like:
- 90% of messages are about kids schedules, extracurricular events, and health
- Messages of anger and drama go into the “not my war” folder, it is best not to respond at all
- 10% of the flexible messages are cooperative and if a variance on the schedule is requested, then the beneficial variance is also offered
Finding Strength in My Calm Repose
When I got stronger and more positive about my divorce I was able to ignore and deflect most of the incoming BS. As I stopped responding with angry retorts I believe she stopped getting her payoff. She wanted drama. She wanted to see me upset. By not giving her that response, she began cooling her guns.
Even today, my ex-wife tends to escalate over the smallest detail. And her angry responses to any of my requests have given way to a truce of sorts. In the truce, however, she gets the kids 100% of the time and refuses to consult with me on any parenting or kid-related issues. There’s a demilitarized zone. But in this isolation between us, so much of what could be great in our co-parenting journey is trashed. It makes every holiday a bit tense. It makes sick days very sad for me, as I can’t connect with her about our kids. (My kids aren’t answering their phones when they are sick.) She’s got all the power.
What I’ve got is my state of happiness and peace. I no longer fight with her about anything. I no longer ask her for anything. I keep my communications primarily with my kids. As far as I’m concerned, she’s no longer the superpower she was. I have one year of child support left, and I’ll be free of that tether as well. I am okay. I am sad that she can’t see the advantages of being a rational human being with me, but perhaps me even writing this blog, is reason enough for her to maintain her bristling embattlements against me.
Back to Indifference
We’ve all got our lives to lead as best we can. In walking our paths we will encounter angry and bitter people. Our job is not to take on their bitterness nor respond in kind when they point weapons and words at us. As I walk along this single dad path, I have my priorities fairly well established.
Take care of my health (mental, physical, spiritual)
Stay connected to my children
Keep my ex-wife in my prayers: may she find happiness and release
Be strong, positive, and healthy in your life. Grow into boundaries that are both safe and humane. And give the best of yourself to your kids. Everything else is trivial.
image: first day of school, the year before the divorce, creative commons usage, john mcelhenney
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